Van Avermaet eyes 'free role' at World Championships

Belgian team also has in-form Tom Boonen

Greg Van Avermaet has shed some light on the Belgian approach to the World Championships road race in Doha next month, marking out a 'free role' for himself with plenty of attacking intent.

The flat course means the race could be one for the sprinters, but its length, the wind, and the uncontrollable nature of Worlds races could make it a more open affair.

Tom Boonen would seem to be the logical choice for leadership of the Belgian team, given his illustrious one-day palmares and his ability to deliver a fast sprint. Indeed, the 35-year-old underlined his credentials this weekend by winning the Brussels Cycling Classic, where he outpaced Arnaud Démare and Nacer Bouhanni.

Van Avermaet, who became Olympic champion last month on a hilly course in Rio, does not see himself throwing his eggs in the Boonen basket, and wants to be free to try to shake up the race. 

"Tom Boonen certainly has a chance in the sprint, but I see myself playing a free role," the 31-year-old told Belgian media at a post-Olympic homecoming appearance at the Wetteren derny criterium.

"At the Worlds I hope to do what I love to do; go on the attack, happy with whatever happens as a consequence. We the Belgian team must go to the Worlds as outsiders and see what happens."

Before the Worlds roll around, Van Avermaet will lead BMC at the Canadian WorldTour one-day races – the Grands Prix de Québec and Montréal – before heading to the Eneco Tour later in September.

"I've only had one race day since the Olympic Games so I'm excited to be racing again. I always enjoying racing at these one-day Classics and I think we can definitely race aggressively and hopefully come away with a win," he said in a BMC statement.

Van Avermaet has been on the podium twice at Québec and has finished no lower than 10th in the last five editions, while he was runner-up at last year's Eneco Tour. Those results are fairly typical of the rider who had become known as something of a nearly-man, but this season he has gone about shaking off that moniker.

"The Olympic title brings some peace. I had to prove my entire career that I could do it, but with that gold medal that happened, the recognition is there now," he added in Wetteren.

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